With the World of Tanks ANZ Premier League Semi-Finals kicking off today at 7pm AEDT, and the Finals happening on the 27th November at 7pm AEDT, we had the pleasure of chatting with Jake Truman, Product Manager for World of Tanks ANZ. Here’s how it all went down.
- With the WoT finals just around the corner, has this tournament lived up to your expectations in terms of excitement, viewership and participation, etc?
I came into the idea of the World of Tanks ANZ Premier League (ANZPL) not entirely knowing what to expect, so I set myself and the team quite conservative targets. We were trying such a different approach to esports for World of Tanks that it was hard to accurately forecast or even compare with similar projects in the past. With that being said, thanks to our incredible community, all targets have well and truly been blown out of the water, not only viewership but participation and excitement as well.
Personally, I was hoping to see a maximum concurrent viewership of 350 on Twitch throughout the main season with an ultimate goal of 1,000 by the finals. We hit 350 on opening night and 1,000 by round 5 – our Japanese players were so intrigued by the event we ended up broadcasting in Japanese too! That doesn’t even mention the quality of the games themselves, with playoff spots hanging in the balance until the very final battle of the main season; on a night that also saw the (formerly) undefeated minor premiers beaten by a team in the bottom two!
There’s been an amazing sense of community around the event with players, casters, and viewers alike all coming together to improve and support the League week on week. We thought we might need to really sell it into World of Tanks players, but they have flocked to our Twitch channel and reveled in that iconic ANZ ‘Friday night football’ atmosphere. With Semi-Finals on the 20th, Finals on the 27th, and Season 2 already confirmed for next year it’s only going to become bigger and bigger.
- Prior to your promotion to ANZ Product Manager earlier this year, were you involved in the esports aspect of WoT? Or is this your first jump into WoT esports?
First-time caller, long time listener! Before stepping into the Product Manager role for World of Tanks I was the Community Manager in the two years prior. While I wasn’t involved in the esports tournament we were running at the time (known as the APAC League) I was in close contact with several of our veteran pro players from ANZ – most of whom now find themselves in ANZPL. I also had access to a lot of people in Wargaming who were able to provide their insights and expertise. While I didn’t have a complete sense of exposure to the inner workings of the esports beast, it was clear we had to think things through carefully if we were going to make esports a sustainable model locally.
I have long been a passionate sports fan, and esports fan – if you found two flies on a windowsill, I’d find a way to pull some stats regarding their movements in the final third. Competition and sport of any sort have long fascinated me, and when discussing this with the team we wanted to bring in some elements from (in our opinion) some of the most successful sporting franchises – like European Football’s points system, the NBA Draft, and location-based teams – to combine them with more ‘conventional’ esports structures in order to fuse together the tournament you see today in ANZPL.
- Running Tournaments such as this on such a scale as this must be stress-inducing at the best of times. Has the current epidemic put added pressure on this?
We’ve certainly had to keep it in mind, it’s hard not to, but we have approached this with a long term vision. Needless to say, managing players, casters, and production all remotely isn’t always easy, but when your community spans five time zones getting everyone in a singular physical space is basically a write-off from the get-go. Thankfully our production partners in Fortress Melbourne and tournament sponsor HyperX have done an absolutely incredible job to ensure everything has run as smoothly as can be.
The biggest challenge was selling the players themselves on the new team structure. Traditionally, you’d just find enough friends or clanmates who were interested and register yourselves as a team. However for the ANZ Premier League, we wanted the teams of six to consist of three ‘home’ state-based qualifiers, and another three players those qualifiers would then pick from a Draft.
This meant players found themselves facing off against clanmates and friends, on top of competing for a share of $10,000AUD. However, when it became clear during the battles themselves how balanced and competitive these teams were, they were won over. So much so that when discussing Season 2 with players, we discussed with teams the ability to ‘scout’ a friend or clan member, but this idea was rejected by the players because they’re now worried about it impacting the balance they are experiencing in Season 1.
- As support for esports grows, what can we expect from these tournaments moving forward? By that I mean is there anything perhaps on the horizon from Wargaming.net that will help them stick out from the rest and bring higher levels of excitement and interaction with Tournaments.
As we plan for Seasons 2 and 3 next year, we’d like to continue that sort of ‘crossover’ with conventional sport once we go into the offseason. By that I mean teams will be able to trade players, individuals can drop back into the Draft, and we’ll be adding ‘home’ and ‘away’ camos to the team’s tanks next year to make sure the visual excitement matches that behind the scenes!
My ‘moonshot’ goal for the League would be for it to develop into a regional ‘Champions League’ style tournament where all finals teams from across the region compete for glory! That’s still very much an idea at this point however, our Japan team are seeing some great success with their own 3v3 ‘Koshien’ tournament which finished its second season earlier this year, and the rest of our teams always have a few irons in the fire so it depends how the stars align. Suffice to say, we aren’t done here yet – not even close.
- Wargaming.net has produced a fine trio in the “World Of” series, – WoWs is my personal favourite, I have certainly spent enough on it – would there ever be a possibility to create one massive “crossover” tournament or event to bring all of them together? A technical feat I know, but it would an awesome sight!
If I could work out a way to pull something like that off I think I’d be calling the shots up there at the top with Viktor Kislyi haha! Crossplay is always a bit of a Pandora’s Box when it comes to making sure code and servers are aligned, balance between games – much less the systems they’re played on – is incredibly challenging to streamline, honestly, I’ve already ventured way out of my depth trying to explain how crossplay works with zero coding experience.
Due to the difference in World of Tanks titles alone across PC, Console and Mobile we haven’t been able to facilitate crossplay there, much less with the entire Iron Trilogy; but if we ever have that lightbulb moment we will definitely let MKAU know!
- Do you enjoy what you do?
I absolutely love what I do. I have worked in the games industry (retail, journalism, now publishing) for 10 years now, and from the moment I realised gaming and the gaming industry was becoming more than just a fantasy. I haven’t considered anything else.
People think all you do is play video games – you don’t. I work incredibly hard, and still, experience moments of stress and frustration just like one would in any career. I can also personally empathise and relate to how much a positive experience with your favourite game or gaming, in general, can make an impact on someone’s day or even their whole life. I would not be where I am without the passion I have for video games and the joy they have brought to me as an individual. If I’m able to channel that passion and play even a minuscule part in bringing the same sense of joy to another person’s gaming experience, that’s one of the greatest feelings I can experience – and a pretty big ‘Achievement Unlocked’ as far as I’m concerned.
- What brought you to wargaming.net?
I would not be at Wargaming if it wasn’t for two of my former bosses – James Kozanecki and Michael Mucci. At the time (2017) I was working as a Content and Community Manager at a social agency when Michael contacted me about a similar role soon to be available in the newly forming Wargaming ANZ publishing team. At the time there were still some things to be sorted out with the logistics of headcount and office space so the offer was put on ice for a while but at the time I thought that was just a polite “thanks but no thanks”.
A few months later James contacted me about the same role and I was hired after a successful interview process. However, what I (and apparently James and Michael) didn’t realise was that neither of them knew that the other person had been talking to me! Turns out both scouted me independently, I guess great minds think alike! I hope that I have been able to live up to that first impression in the three years since.
This last question we like to ask everyone we interview for a bit of fun.
- The zombie apocalypse is upon us. you are fighting to survive. What is your weapon of choice?
I’ve thought too long and hard about this over the years to open the front door to the apocalypse and die cause I picked a samurai sword or a gatling gun. I’m going to go for the pragmatic approach and say a hatchet (provided I can couple it with some sturdy magazines).
The hatchet part is pretty straight forward. A bladed weapon with a bit more reach and utility than something like a hunting knife, but far more practical than the swords and chainsaws popularised by Hollywood – nobody thinks about carrying all this stuff around! The magazines on the other hand are from Hollywood – specifically a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ from World War Z (a movie which was far better than it had any right to be by the way). The film shows the protagonist taping thick magazines around his forearms so that he can lead a charge through an infested building – allowing him to block and fend off the zombies with his arms while escaping. No weapon in the world can save you from that range when your arms are pinned, so having the ability to use them to break free without fear of bites or scratches I believe would be a literal lifesaver – and they’re recyclable!
And there you have it. We’d like to give a huge thanks to Jake for his time.
Be sure to watch the games live over at https://www.twitch.tv/worldoftanksanz with the Semi-Finals kicking off tonight at 7pm AEDT with the Finals happening on the 27th November at 7pm AEDT.
If you’d like to find out more about the ANZ Premier League, head over to: https://worldoftanks.asia/en/tournaments/2000001802/